“Many people who order their lives rightly in all other ways are kept in poverty by their lack of gratitude.”
Why Practice Gratitude?
Numerous events in my life collided a few years ago to make for the perfect storm. I had the choice to give up or to find gratitude. I chose gratitude, because gratitude is love and light and sunshine, even on a cloudy dark day.
When my husband and I married, we married for a variety of complex reasons, one of which was a strong love of family and children. We both had a child from our previous marriages, but we wanted more. Unfortunately, within a few years time were blessed with and lost three of god’s possibilities before the 12 week mark. After the third miscarriage my doctor ran a panel of my hormones and the possibility of my getting and staying pregnant on my own was not looking good. I was given a hormone treatment to encourage ovulation and we joyfully discovered right away that I was pregnant with twins. By the 8 week ultrasound one twin already showed that he was not growing properly and by the 12 week we had confirmed ultrasounds and genetic testing. The likelihood that I would miscarry by 20 weeks was something like 80% or 90%. I don’t remember precisely, but it wasn’t good. We were devastated.
Because the twins were fraternal, we were given the option to stop the growth of the second twin. My husband was getting ready to deploy and our happiness quickly turned to sadness and anxiety. His family tradition and faith don’t support ending a pregnancy, but he is also a very pragmatic soul. And we had confirmed that our little eternal flower as we called her at the time, was healthy. After much talking, praying, reading, discussing and more prayer and meditation, we went with the choice that had the highest chance of delivering us a healthy baby. Today our eternal flower is 2 years old. And her baby brother, her twin separated at conception as we call him, is almost 11 months old.
Even after the procedure, my pregnancy was not an easy one. My husband was deployed overseas for 5 months of the pregnancy and for most of that time I was on bedrest with limited activity. Towards the end I was hospitalized with preeclampsia. All things considered, I made it through happy and mentally strong by making gratitude a part of my daily life.
How to practice Gratitude?
I am sure every person is different, but I have found that meditation, journaling, visualisation and simply slowing down and being aware of what I do have provides me with the space and the state of mind to practice gratitude. To move beyond being grateful and truly appreciating all that I have and all that I have benefited from in my life. Gratitude is on one hand really a practice of love. A love for oneself, for one’s family, one’s community, one’s faith, the universe and God.
Ways I have learned to practice gratitude:
- Downloaded apps on my phone with meditations on gratitude and health.
- Said grace before eating dinner (traditional Christian and the Five Contemplations by Thich Nhat Hanh)
- 30 days of writing in a journal 3 things that I am grateful. First I would write them and then my son would write his. We couldn’t be grateful for the something more than once. A new gratitude piece each day.
- Periodically just stopping to check-in with myself and the world, to see where I am and what I have to be grateful for.
- Light a candle, write down a prayer or intention, and say the prayer or intention out-loud to the Virgin Mary filled with water from my husband’s family’s’ island in Madagascar (a blending of traditional Malagasy and Catholic faiths).
- Using my body (walking, yoga, core training, running, biking…)
- Practicing empathy: trying to see things from another person’s perspective, asking myself how they feel, how things affect them, why they might be motivated to do something a certain way, what are their fears, motivations, concerns?
- Using the Breath App on my iPhone for meditation: when I sign in it has a 10 second “check-in” where I stop and pick 5 words to describe how I am feeling.
- Telling my husband that I am grateful for X, Y, Z.
- Telling my friends and family that they are valued.
- Letting myself be vulnerable.
Joy comes from Gratitude
The practice of gratitude is perhaps the most amazing gift I have received in this life. It is amazing how wealthy and rich one feels, when the tally is not “what I don’t have” or “what someone else has,” but rather all that I do have. And then that wealth grows, when I think of all the things that the people around me have done to contribute to that wealth.
Some people are terribly conflicted by Facebook, because they see only the sunnyside of our friends, because people tend to put their best face forward on Facebook. We get joy from sharing our joys. And often, our sorrows we don’t want to share or we feel guilty sharing. If I feel like crap, I don’t really want to ruin your day!
That said, I think that Facebook is also a great platform for the practice of gratitude. In the last year I have had several friends whose fathers have passed away. When they post old pictures, stories of love, funny memories, I see their love and gratitude shining through and I am yes, saddened by their loss, but more than my sadness, I feel gratitude that my friends had such beautiful fathers. I have another friend who does photography for NLMTDS (an organization that photographs babies that have died). Give my experience with pregnancy loss and as the mother of two babies, I am on one had emotionally mortified at the idea of taking these photos, a the same time I am so proud of her and so grateful that she is able to provide this service to hurting families, helping them to one day heal from their loss. I have another cousin whose life has not been a cake-walk, and yet almost daily she posts a “Bad Joke of the Day,” I look forward to these jokes like you wouldn’t believe, and when I don’t see them in my feed, I actually have to go searching!
And then there are the photos of celebrations, babies, birthdays, graduations, dogs, funny things my cousins, nephews, etc. have done and or said…and all the other wonderful life events for me to share in my gratitude. It may be called Facebook, but it really is the perfect platform for a gratitude practice. So the next time you log on Facebook or you take a walk or you find yourself laying in bed at night with your eyes wide awake, take sometime to think of all the things in life you have to be grateful for. Maybe you start small, with the bed under your body and the roof over your head, but whomever you are and wherever you are, there is something to be grateful for. And this is how we move forward and create more good and more wealth in our world.
“Gratitude will lead your mind out along the ways by which things come; and it will keep you in close harmony with creative thought and prevent you from falling into competitive thought.”
I almost want to frame this. I’ve gotten so bad at gratitude and I really, really need an attitude adjustment. It’s interesting because for a few years NILMDTS shocked me into gratitude but I guess I’ve gotten “used” to things and forgotten to be grateful. Must get to work!